World Cocoa Foundation and Partners: Cocoa Innovations Symposium
Entry: Bill Guyton and Tracey Duffey
Last Thursday and Friday, the World Cocoa Foundation convened more than 70 international experts in Washington DC to identify ways to drive innovation in cocoa farming. The two-day Cocoa Innovations Symposium focused on labor-saving technologies and production efficiency; farm safety; education and community development, as well as monitoring innovative approaches and evaluating their impact and suitability for scale-up. On Friday, the Symposium concluded with the announcement of $140,000 in cocoa innovation challenge grants to be awarded to local organizations and instutions in cocoa producing countries during our World Cocao Foundation Partnership Meeting in Hamburg, Germany on October 8-9, 2008.
Tracey, Robert, Virginia, Charlie and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with our colleagues from cocoa producing countries, farmer organizations, research institutes, NGOs, international donors and industry during the Symposium. We heard excellent presentations from Dr. Sarah Moten and Mr. Franklin Moore of the US Agency for International Development, and Mr. Sona Ebai of the Cocoa Producers' Association (COPAL). The highlight for us was learning insights and practical suggestions from our partners during the workshop sessions on how to tailor "challenge grants" around the important themes of:
• Farm-level innovation: focusing on labor-saving technologies and production efficiency in such areas as applied research, post-harvest mechanization, cocoa-pod composting, and solar driers;
• Farm safety: exploring ways to make cocoa farming safer, including alternative tools, harvesting mechanization, and integrated pest management; and
• Education and community development: including training approaches and methods of disseminating information related to basic education, farmer training, sensitization on social issues, and farmer organization development.
On Thursday evening, World Cocoa Foundation and the Smithsonian's National Zoo hosted a reception at the National Zoo's Amazonia Exhibit. This was very meaningful to us, because the Smithsonian Tropcial Research Institute (STRI) has been a partner with the chocolate industry on cocoa sustainability issues since 1998, when the first "Sustainable Cocoa Stakeholders Meeting was held in Panama. We were delighted to have distinguished guests celebrate this event with us, including ambassadors from three cocoa producing countries.
As many of our readers know, more than five million smallholder farm families around the world depend upon cocoa farming for their livelihood. Most of these families grow cocoa as their parents and grandparents did, using traditional farming methods. That is why we have a tremendous opportunity to transform these farming practices in truly innovative ways, helping families better their lives by unlocking the economic potential of this unique and important crop.